Happy Mother's Day!
From your sons, Jonathan and Evan
You live your life for others, but you take time for yourself. You love Sherlock Holmes and Sholem Aleichem. You support pro-Israel politics, and Israeli soldiers, and Ethiopian-Israeli college students, and scientific research in the Negev. You are a source of joy and comfort to your friends. You learned to play golf and canasta in your sixties. You’re an explorer. You’ve posed with your arm around our father, the both of you beaming, in just about every mad, beautiful place on this earth.
Art thrills and teaches. Great books, movies, TV shows...they improve lives. Teaching is noble. It is a good thing to help people learn, through stories, through music, through food. It is a good thing to sit with your loved ones around the table, on the sofa, on a golf cart. Sometimes you talk, sometimes you laugh. Sometimes you make a case for the things you believe in. Sometimes you listen to what others believe. It is a good thing to let life surprise you. To grow older with grace. To hold tight to the ones we love. To drink iced tea. To be good and kind to ourselves.
Being such a devoted mother and grandmother and daughter. For loving our father for so many years. For the rides to school and rehearsals and tennis practice and detention and friends’ houses deep in the wilds of Smithtown and Nassau county. For the comforting phone calls. For the opportunity to argue and heal. For the chicken cutlets and chicken soup and roast chicken and oven bbq chicken (and faux chicken for the quirky vegetarians). For the brisket and pot roast and burgers (and faux burgers for the quirky vegetarians). For the pasta with garlic and fresh tomatoes. For the pints of ice cream in the freezer. For the pool toys. For sitting at the head of the Seder table and telling the stories of our people and throwing rubber frogs at everybody.
Living your life. For letting some things carry forward from the earliest pages, for letting some plot lines wrap up, and for introducing new characters and themes in more recent chapters. You were a social worker, you taught Hebrew School to children and counseled interfaith marriages. Now you teach about Judaism and Israel to adults with special needs. Your friends lean in to you, celebrate with you, cry with you, laugh with you. We are proud of your toughness and your resolve, your loyalty to your principles.
All our lives we’ve known the pride that comes from having a mother like you. An intelligent, curious, sweet, hopeful, honest person to whom we compare ourselves without realizing we’re doing it. We take your example of tenderness and care and generosity and we share it with the people we love. We feel your soul speak through your smile and through your hugs and through each carefully chosen word in each punctual holiday card, rendered in that big, wild looping script. Since we were little boys we’d tell people you’re our mom and their whole faces would change. “Oh my goodness,” they’d say. “We just love her so much.”
You can also honor someone important in your life by selecting a "We Celebrate Tribute" in the JWA store.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Phylis Newman." (Viewed on August 19, 2019) <https://jwa.org/wecelebrate/newman-phylis>.